“Studies show that if we conserve half of our land and seas, at least 85 percent of species will be protected from extinction.”– Biologist, myrmecologist (ant researcher) and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Dr. Edward O. Wilson in his latest book, “Half Earth.”
Dr. E. O. Wilson spoke at a conference in Washington, D.C. this October in support of a bill proposed by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). Rep. Beyer introduced the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Act in late 2016 “to help protect the nearly one in five animal and plant species in the U.S. at risk of extinction” and will soon reintroduce the bill, hopefully with bipartisan co-sponsors. The Northcoast Environmental Center was one of over 60 conservation organizations and scientists that supported the bill last year. The bill also had wide support from sportsmen’s and hiking groups and the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies.
The bill would task agencies with identifying and protecting wildlife corridors throughout the nation. New, robust Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have made the identification and tracking of corridors more effective and can be used in accomplishing many conservation goals for plants and animals.
Two important values of corridors are: 1. Allowing for continued migration of animals between seasonal food and breeding areas, and 2. Enhancing the resilience of plant and animal species as they move to adjust to climate change from places they no longer can tolerate, to more moderate conditions that will allow for sustainability and adaptation. Sometimes that migration is from lower to higher elevations, northward migration or migration along water courses.
In Dr. Wilson’s book, “Half Earth”, he states “…we understand the identity and biology of only two of the 10 million species on Earth. Conservation efforts have slowed species loss by at least 20 percent, but fall short of stabilizing Earth’s living environment. If we continue on this path, half of all known species will be gone by the end of the century.”
How the bill would work:
- Grants authority to key federal agencies to designate and manage wildlife corridors to sustain healthy species populations.
- Requires Department of Interior – in consultation with the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense and Transportation and in coordination with states, tribes and others, designate wildlife corridors, and develop a strategy for development of the corridor system.
- Requires coordination in both designation and management of corridors with other Federal departments and, states, tribes, local governments, non-government organizations (NGOs) and private landowners.
- Promotes public safety and mitigates species damage where corridors cross roadways.
- Establishes the Wildlife Corridors Stewardship and Protection Fund to support Corridors and other lands and waters important to connectivity.
- Provides authority to acquire land and interest in land using funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Corridors Stewardship and Protection Fund, and private donations.
- Provides for development of a publicly available National Native Species Habitats and Corridors Database .
- Establishes a Wildlife Corridors Stewardship and Protection Fund to provide the financial resources necessary to carry out and sustain this system.
The management goals include:
- Preventing habitat loss and fragmentation within the corridor;
- Implementing strategies and activities that enhance the ability of native species to respond to climate change and other environmental factors;
- Maintaining or restoring the integrity and functionality of the corridor and associated habitat;
- Mitigating human caused barriers to native species movement (e.g., power lines, highways, and fences); and
- Using existing conservation programs under each Secretary’s jurisdiction.
There are existing examples of success in protecting wildlife through this philosophy. Connectivity is provided in long-distance recreation trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail and rivers protected through the Wild and Scenic Rivers program. In California, for example, plans are being implemented to provide a corridor over eight lanes of highway 101 and other barriers to allow cougars to roam from Santa Monica National Recreation Area to other habitats. Similar plans are in the works for new wildlife crossing structures along Highway 17 in Santa Clara County.
The concept is broader than terrestrial pathways for animals. In the Mid-Atlantic States, forests are being evaluated for “patch” size and location which is important for migrating neotropical birds. In urban Oslo, Norway, people are planting pollinator-friendly species to allow for migration of bees across the city.
“There is no doubt that protecting wildlife corridors is one of the most important proactive steps that we have to safeguard our country’s wildlife and majestic public lands,” stated Robert Stanton, former Director of the National Park Service and Endangered Species Coalition board member. (The NEC is an active member of the Coalition.)
At a future date, the NEC will auction a signed copy of E.O. Wilson’s Half Earth. Wilson added a sketch of an ant to his signature in the book when he learned it was for NEC’s conservation work.
What you can do:
- Write to you Congressional Delegation to support re-introduction of the Wildlife Corridors conservation Act. (provide contact info for ours)
- Watch for an NEC Alert notification when the bill is reintroduced so you can write in support of the bill.
- Take E.O. Wilson’s online pledge! “As a global citizen, I pledge to do what I can to support the Half-Earth Project: Share information about Half-Earth with my network. Participate in local conservation efforts. Support policies that protect the Earth's lands and oceans.” http://act.half-earthproject.org/pledge/